Birthing where and with whom you want should be your legal right. Unfortunately in Australia, if your plan is to birth at home, who you choose to have attend your birth has become restricted by ever increasing government requirements for midwives and in the case of hospital offered homebirth programs, many of the rules for access have made personal choice very limited.
This leaves the growing-in-popularity option of unassisted birth, also known as freebirth.
In the past, freebirth was seen by most as a fringe activity chosen by few. But with the ever-growing restriction of midwifery attended homebirth, the decision for women to freebirth has increased dramatically. The interesting thing to note is, that freebirth is seemingly now being treated by women as a choice in its own right.
Women are no longer just choosing it because they can’t have a midwife at their birth, freebirth is being chosen because women feel that they can. Birthing autonomously is fast becoming a normalised birth option for many women. With access to online social networks and well-established resources, such as the Free Birth Society, women are finding a community to support their desires to birth how they want.
Despite threats to many women, such as being told freebirth is illegal or threats of being reported, this choice isn’t lessening in popularity. Access to independent care - care that holds women and their decision-making at the centre - isn’t going to increase, so for women who want to take full responsibility for their births, then this is the birth they are choosing.
And whilst women are receiving threats, so too are many non-medical birth attendants. They are warned off from attending freebirth, however those of us who believe women make wise decisions for themselves and are able to discern the difference between a midwife and a doula, we show up. We smile, we sit and we celebrate women’s choice, because it is always theirs to make.